“You may have different views than Joe Biden. But he is a person of integrity and decency,” ex-FBI Director James Comey tells attendees of Convention on Founding Principles.
As Republican leadership kicked off their national convention Monday in Charlotte, conservatives who’ve broken with the party held their own convention across town.
But in this one, 87% of the 400 delegates said they would vote for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden over President Donald Trump.
Organizers of the anti-Trump event—the “Convention on Founding Principles”—say it’s evidence that the divisive GOP president has lost support among people who might otherwise consider themselves Republicans.
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The event was planned by Trump critics such as former NC Supreme Court Associate Justice Bob Orr and national organizations such as Stand Up Republic and Principles First. And it drew national voices like former FBI Director James Comey, ex-RNC Chair Michael Steele and former independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin.
McMullin, a former GOP Congressional staffer, called it a “grim milestone” Monday that the party would go forward with nominating Trump again.
And Comey, noting that he was a registered Republican who hadn’t spoken at political events because of his career in law enforcement, told the convention he would be supporting Biden.
“You may have different views than Joe Biden,” Comey said. “But he is a person of integrity and decency. Republicans used to believe that character matters first.”
Comey was a polarizing figure during the 2016 election, chiefly because of his announcement late in the election cycle that he was reopening his investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
Some accused Comey of tilting the election in Trump’s favor, although the former FBI director has emerged as one of the president’s harshest critics in the years since.
On Monday, Comey said the country’s identity and belief in “higher level things” are at stake in the election.
“Those are under threat,” he said. “If we lose those, it doesn’t matter what your views are on taxes and regulation because America is gone.”
“The truth is real and it matters,” Comey added. “It must be sought, it must be spoken. Donald Trump represents an assault on all of that, on the idea that truth even exists.”
Steele, who chaired the Republican National Committee from 2009 to 2011, has also emerged as a Trump critic since the 2016 election. Steele, the first Black person to lead the RNC, called the president “racist” in 2018 after the president reportedly referred to countries such as El Salvador and Haiti as “shithole countries.”
Steele said Monday that voting against Trump in 2020 is about more than partisan politics.
“I’m one of the most partisan guys out there,” Steele said. “I was the national chairman, but sometimes you realize it’s about your family and your country.”
No Party Platform
Multiple speakers hammered Republicans Monday after the RNC announced that it would not vote on a platform this year, one of the historic centerpieces of the national party conventions. Republican leaders instead said they would reuse their 2016 platform, insisting that the novel coronavirus necessitated the decision. However, Democrats voted on their platform during their virtual convention last week.
“The GOP today didn’t even pass a platform,” said Heath Mayo, founder of the anti-Trump conservative group Principles First. “That’s how devoid of ideas it is. It doesn’t care about ideas.”
While the anti-Trump group criticized the president and the party on alleged racism, numerous allegations of sexual misconduct, and failing to contain the coronavirus—which has killed more than 173,000 Americans— Republican leadership at the RNC opened Monday characterizing Democrats as a threat to the nation.
“I am here tonight to tell you — to warn you — that this election is a decision between preserving America as we know it and eliminating everything that we love,” The Washington Post reported GOP advocate Charlie Kirk as saying in his speech Monday to the RNC.
But notable in Monday’s speeches from the Convention on Founding Principles was the presence of evangelical speakers and writers, often considered among the most reliable of Trump voters, who condemned the president’s alleged misconduct. At least 25 women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct since the 1970s.
“Even the most objective of his supporters have to ask: Can all the women really be lying?” said Vicki Courtney, a Christian author from Texas.
Mark Galli, the retired editor of the Christianity Today news site, called Trump “the most divisive president in the history of the United States.”
“One might argue that he makes Richard Nixon look like a saint,” said Galli Monday.
The Convention on Founding Principles is scheduled to run through Thursday. Speakers in the coming days include former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, CNN host S.E. Cupp, former White House spokesperson Anthony Scaramucci, and former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.